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Opinion/Philanthropy Journal – Charity should heal itself

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By Todd Cohen

Charity needs an overhaul.

With politicians sniffing blood and vowing to crack down on philanthropy, foundations need to police themselves.

But rather than try to fix themselves, foundations deny they have any problems.

They even have hired a conservative lobbyist to sell Congress on the preposterous claim that forcing them to give away slightly more money could rub them out.

Their wealth and clout can blind foundations to their own arrogance and to the way they treat and are seen by charities.

“I have been floored by the way many foundation representatives receive grantseekers,” says an executive of a big national charity.

“Their job is to help us form partnerships that make a difference in communities and in the lives of people, yet I often find them to be condescending and unwilling to truly listen and understand.

“Just as they struggle with calls from inexperienced proposal writers, we struggle with dismissal based upon a word, a phrase, bad timing or just plain laziness – all from individuals who may not truly understand the mission of their employer.

“It would be wonderful to know that each time one called a foundation, the same politeness and respect given would be returned.”

Seeming to underscore the idea that foundations can bully and intimidate charities, the fundraising executive asked not to be identified.

Foundations need to clean up their act, and talking to charities would be a great place to start.

Otherwise, politicians incapable of tackling corporate abuse will aim their wrecking balls at philanthropy.

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